JOINED: February 2021 (from Stormers/Western Province)
POSITION: Flanker, number 8
NATIONALITY: South Africa
Bath lost a good player this summer in Zach Mercer, following the English back row forward’s move to join Top 14 side Montpellier. Given what Mercer brought to the team in attack and defence, Bath needed to bring in someone who could fill the gap, and identified South African player Jaco Coetzee as that player. This analysis will highlight what he will bring to the Recreation Ground next season, and why fans will grow to like him.
When playing in the back row, it is essential to be strong when carrying the ball forwards, and Coetzee has that ability, constantly gaining ground for his team. This image shows how defenders find him difficult to stop when at full speed, with Bulls unable to prevent him moving the ball behind them here.
By remaining upright and forcing his way through, Coetzee has ensured that there will be fewer defenders left to beat when he offloads the ball to his teammate, which Bath will benefit from, as it could help them to break teams down more regularly, potentially securing them a few more wins. Last season, they finished seventh in the English Premiership, so will definitely be looking next season to challenge for the play-off places.
Coetzee is also strong on the ground, with now-defunct Japanese side Sunwolves initially tackling him in this situation, but not holding onto him. This is a bad mistake, as allowing Coetzee to keep going has created a 2-v-1 against the Sunwolves full-back, and this is where Coetzee demonstrates that he isn’t just a battering ram. He dummies the pass out towards his teammate here, before running through the gap this created and scoring the try, and this shows how he is a clever player who makes good decisions on the field, always looking for where he can make breaks and cause problems for opponents.
These sniping runs and dummied passes are a key aspect of Coetzee’s game, and are qualities that Bath fans will enjoy watching at the Rec next season.
Defending is also an essential part of the game for back row players, as they generally make the majority of tackles during matches. In this image, we see Coetzee’s excellent tackling technique, never letting go of opponents until they are on the ground, which ensures that they can’t get up and run as he did in the previous image. On this occasion, it is Buenos Aires-based Jaguares who are facing Stormers, with Argentina flanker Tomas Lezana being taken down by Coetzee before he can make any advances.
It is also vital to win turnovers, and Coetzee thrives in this area of the game too. We have seen many times how making last ditch tackles and turning the ball over can be the difference in the Premiership, and Bath can expect Coetzee to be in the middle of a lot of their defensive play next season.
We have already mentioned how Jaco Coetzee has the same attacking qualities as Zach Mercer, constantly finding gaps and providing a try threat from the back row, meaning that he will fit into Bath’s tactics seamlessly. However, his strength at winning turnovers is more like Harlequins flanker Will Evans, who led the league last season in this statistic, with 29 won before his season-ending injury. Bath flanker Josh Bayliss was third on that list, with 15 made, so if Coetzee can strike up a partnership with the Scotland international, then Bath could be a difficult side to play against when the new season gets underway.